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Jewish World Review May 9, 2000 / 3 Iyar, 5760

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports


To stop gun violence, keep families intact -- WASHINGTON, D.C., has never seen a stroller traffic jam before, but that could all change this Mother's Day, May 14. That's when women from around the country will descend on our nation's capitol in a "Million Mom March" to protest gun violence, particularly violence against children.

The March is the brainstorm of an "angry" New Jersey mom who decided after a shooting at a day camp last summer to "do something" about guns. She has gotten a huge response from moms, impressive corporate sponsors, the press, sports stars and even entertainers like Rosie O'Donnell, who will emcee the event.

Well I'm a mom of three little ones, I want to do something to end gun violence -- and I won't be anywhere near the Million Mom March on Washington.

If these mothers really think that first graders from crime- and drug-infested broken "homes" kill each other only because there are not enough mandatory trigger locks lying around, if they believe a solution to juvenile gun violence is more gun laws in addition to the thousands already on the books -- which are broken by criminals or just not enforced to begin with -- then they don't know the first thing about helping our kids. And the march will be nothing but a feel-good rally that diverts attention from the real problems facing our children.

What a waste. Instead, these moms could have a profound influence if they sent a strong message to our culture about something that really could protect kids. That is, if they changed their message to the "Million Mom March for Marriage."

As Dr. Wade Horn, the JWR columnist and former U.S. commissioner for children, youth and families and now president of the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) told me, "If I had a choice of taking away every gun in America, or putting every child in a home with a loving, committed, married mom and dad -- there's no doubt the kids would be safer and better off with the latter."

That's because today 60 percent of American children will grow to age 18 having spent part or all of their childhood in a single-parent home (typically read: fatherless). In 1950, that number was 12 percent. And that's where they are really at risk.

To begin with, it's in such homes where children are most likely to experience physical or sexual abuse, according to Patrick Fagan, a child therapist and scholar at The Heritage Foundation. And, according to "Father Facts," a publication of NFI, the likelihood of juvenile delinquency for these kids and later, serious criminal activity, is dramatically higher than for their peers from intact families.

In fact, the best predictor of crime levels in any neighborhood is the level of single-parent households in the community. It's even true that children who don't live with their dads are more likely to carry guns than their peers who live with both parents. When you mix this brew with the fact that kids from broken homes are at much greater risk of having serious emotional and other personal problems than their peers from intact homes, it becomes a pretty dangerous concoction.

Now of course it's true that many kids from single-parent homes do great, and many kids from intact families don't -- witness the Columbine killers. It's also true that many people who smoke two packs a day never get lung cancer, and there are folks who never smoke who do get it. But the risk factor for lung cancer is overwhelmingly with the former group.

The more our culture embraces easy divorce and single parenthood, the fewer intact families there are to stabilize a neighborhood and the more easily the tide turns so that eventually every kid in every home has the potential to be affected for the worse by the inherent risks that go with these conditions.

Or as Fagan sees it, because of so many broken relationships between moms and dads permeating our communities, "we are now a culture of alienation and rejection." Hey, I'm sure that many or most of the moms at the March this Mother's Day are all for marriage. Even many of those who are single or divorced -- and 70 percent of the time it's the woman who moves to end the marriage -- would probably say it's best for kids to be raised in intact families.

It's just too bad that these marching moms are going to be spending their time on trigger locks and waiting periods which will do nothing to save our kids. Instead they should be igniting the public's awareness to what is perhaps the most serious risk our children face -- fatherless families.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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12/27/99: Sometimes it matters quite a lot what government thinks
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